Nature Net’s monthly blog highlights seasonal topics and helps you feel like the expert. Each edition features tips for educators and families, and links to exciting, nature-focused websites.

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May 2022 – Climate Anxiety
Have you ever - like me - stood bewildered in the grocery aisle, trying to make a selection that keeps in mind both the family budget and the environment? When I was in graduate school, the professor for my "Climate Change and Human & Planetary Health" class asked students to track the carbon footprint of our meals for a day. As a born-and-raised Wisconsinite, it was near heartbreaking to learn that cheese has an extremely high carbon footprint (e.g. producing ...Continue Reading
March 2022 – Wolf Conflicts
Just a few weeks ago (February, 2022), a US District court re-listed the gray wolf as a federally endangered species. This pertains to wolves in the lower 48 states, except the northern Rocky Mountain region. I don’t know about your newsfeed, but this transpired with seemingly far less fanfare than the October 2020 announcement that the US Fish & Wildlife would remove the wolf from the Federal Endangered Species list. Particularly since this latter event triggered the opening of a wolf ...Continue Reading
February 2022 – Environmental Justice
Let’s talk about environmental justice - particularly in light of climate change. I first learned of the concept of environmental justice when I was an undergrad in the 1990s at the UW Nelson Institute. At that point, environmental injustices were related primarily to the unequal distribution of pollution, toxic waste, and pesticides. The discussion focused on how people of particular races, classes, and geographic locations - whether by design or lack of design - are more profoundly impacted by the ...Continue Reading
January 2022 – Ice Fishing
On a fairly regular basis, I drive toward downtown Madison along the shores of Lake Monona on John Nolen Drive. On early winter days, my kids and I place odds on when we’ll first see ice shanties pop up on Monona Bay. It seems like a mere skim of ice over the bay sparks fisher-men and -women into action with their augers and tip-ups and quiet patience. Long a tradition in Wisconsin - including several millennia prior to the arrival ...Continue Reading
December 2021 – Evergreens
While the bleak winterscape pales in comparison to the colors other seasons offer, it’s a perfect time to gain a new appreciation for trees that do provide a visual break from white and grey. Though the words “conifer” and “evergreen” are often used interchangeably, not all evergreens are conifers, and not all conifers are evergreen. “Evergreen” is a non-scientific term used to describe plants that maintain their leaves or needles throughout the seasons, whereas “conifers'' are cone-bearing trees or shrubs. ...Continue Reading
November 2021 – Forest Bathing
I had previously heard of “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku, the Japanese term for taking in the atmosphere of the forest. I first learned of this unique practice when I was contemplating and building a case for the idea that a connection to nature is more than just “tree-hugging,” it’s beneficial to childrens’ health and well-being. But I had never officially - intentionally - partaken in forest bathing. It was amid a casual conversation. A friend who was over for dinner ...Continue Reading
October 2021 – “The Colors”
I took a weekend trip to Door County recently and as I prepared for the journey, several people commented on how nice they expected “the colors” would be. They were, of course, referring to the fall foliage, and indeed the Fall Color Report from Travel Wisconsin noted Door County would be just before peak color that week. When I arrived, true to the data, the sumacs, maples, and ash trees dotted the landscape with red and gold, while the oaks ...Continue Reading
September 2021 – Acorns
I don’t know if the same is happening in your neighborhood, but the oak trees in my area are just raining acorns this year. Never in my ten years of living under oaks have I seen so many acorns. The plinking and thunking of acorns hitting the roof, bouncing off the grill top, and pelting the patio furniture (and the hapless souls sitting in that furniture) has been ceaseless for the past three weeks - it keeps us up at ...Continue Reading
August 2021 – Solastalgia
I learned a new term this past year: solastalgia. Based on the Latin terms solacium (comfort) and algia or algos (pain), solastalgia is the anxiety or despair one experiences due to losing the comforts of one's surroundings because of environmental degradation. Akin to the term nostalgia, which describes the sad or sentimental longing for a past time or place, solastalgia is the feeling of loss and hopelessness associated with changes in one’s environment or ecosystem as a result of climate ...Continue Reading
July 2021 – Tree Equity
An interesting article came across my inbox a few weeks ago. It was an interactive, visual narrative from the New York Times’ opinion section that demonstrated the difference between tree coverage in wealthier (and whiter) neighborhoods vs those that are less wealthy. The authors note that “neighborhoods with a majority of people in poverty have 25 percent less tree canopy on average than those with a minority of people in the most extreme cases, wealthy areas have 65 percent ...Continue Reading